Name: Niall McNamee
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, actor
Current release: Niall McNamee's “All I Need” is out now.
If you enjoyed this interview with Niall McNamee, visit his official website for more information. He is also represented on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I think it has changed since I started. It used to be from moments in my life that I would struggle with (heartbreak, injustice, joy etc) and writing lyrics would be a way I could digest and explain to myself what had happened.
I suppose generally speaking I find that life has a lot of difficult moments and challenges we all face. I’d like to hope my songs could make someone feel better about their struggles and decisions. Their mistakes and their truth.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
Very little planning goes into writing for me. I could be sat at the piano or with a guitar in the middle of writing a song I hadn’t planned to start writing only moments before.
It’s an impulse that nowadays is led more by a chance melody that falls into my arms when I’m messing about. My subconscious usually has a subject matter ready to go with it.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
The only thing I know about that is a song isn’t finished until I’ve played it at a gig at least 10 times (let’s say) as the natural way a song is worked through live often gives it important details that would be hard to come across playing alone in a room.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Being hungover awakens the senses. But that can’t be the answer forever.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I think lyric writing is nearly the most important bit but it’s not simple. It’s getting the Ying and yang between simplicity and complicated words and ideas.
Often smart, short rhymes that fit together neatly are what I like. Something that gets the point or story across without what sounds like any difficulty.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Once it’s released. I’m never totally sure about anything I’ve made by the end of it. The process lends itself to over doing things so I have to watch out for that. Over producing, trying to tidy up something that should be a bit messy.
But once it’s released it’s like I stop being able to see the strings.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?
Needs to be in the moment. If I let anything lie for two long undoubtedly my mind will have changed.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Absolutely. You’ve just spent months (sometimes years) putting so much work in and once it’s released you forget what you do day to day.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Music lasts forever. It’s a moment in time captured in 3/4 minutes. If you make a bad coffee you can pour it away and no one will remember it.
If you release something it’s there.